Monday, June 06, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 19 – The Ear of Malchus)


Being The Beginning
Sunday, January 23, 2011


1 The Exchange
Sunday, January 30, 2011
bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings
Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis
Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes
Friday, February 25, 2011
al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme
Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light
Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman
Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way
Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos
Tuesday, May 10, 2011


14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus Monday, June 6, 2011
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
22 Spirit-Level


23 Witness
24 Alcibiades
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript

Chapter 19

The Ear of Malchus

“It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away,
the Paraclete will never come to you . . .”

John 16: 7, Gospel of

Avoiding the main door Flanagan followed Rio through a small side gate and down steps to the restaurant’s garden dining area. There was no wind and as the early afternoon temperature was unseasonably warm tables had been laid out in the open with white linen coverings and single long-stemmed flowers in thin vases. Rio could smell the scent of the table flowers in the air as they approached. Jack Dawson was already seated at one of the tables. He glared up at them. ‘Took your time,’ he growled.
‘You should have joined us, Jack. The church is fantastic,’ Rio placated. ‘Have you ordered?’
‘I’m going to have the house speciality. Half-melons stuffed with mince in a mint sauce. I’ve also chosen some wine.’
Flanagan held out a chair for Rio, directly opposite to where Jack was sitting, with her back to the entrance steps. He looked around the garden. He liked that it was very private enclosed as it was by a high perimeter wall covered by a climbing vine. He pulled out a chair and positioned himself between Rio and Jack. The waiter arrived and gave them menus.
‘What time is this friend of yours coming?’ Jack asked.
Flanagan looked at his watch. ‘12.15. He should be here by now.’
‘Are you ready to order, Sir,’ the grave-faced waiter asked nervously.
‘No. I am waiting for another…’ Flanagan started to explain. ‘Oh. Here he is now!’ The bitter smell of Ismâil’s cigarette had reached him first and Flanagan stood up to greet his friend, ‘Merhaba Ismâil.’
‘Merhaba Jaffa, my friend. A good day for the time of year!’
Flanagan nodded and indicated to Ismâil that he should take the chair opposite him. The waiter held it out. ‘Ismâil. May I present Dr. Rio Dawson and her uncle, Mr. Jack Dawson from Florida.’
Rio looked hard at the bookseller: late 50s, tall, overweight, long grey hair, loose dandruff on the shoulders of an expensive suit, pale skin, beautifully manicured nails, she noted. She held out her hand. Ismâil took her hand, looked at her fingers for a moment, and then turned the palm prone to brush his lips off the tips. ‘Enchanté, Mademoiselle. My friend, Jaffa never told me he had such a beautiful companion,’ he purred.
‘Merci, Monsieur Ismâil. Vous etês tres gallant,’ Rio answered.
The randy old goat, Flanagan thought, smiling. Jack Dawson coughed. The waiter stood somewhat impatiently, holding out the chair.
‘Excuse my manners, Monsieur Dawson, but I was blinded,’ Ismâil added as he reluctantly released Rio’s hand and shook Jack’s proffered greeting. ‘I hear Florida is a beautiful place with a good climate. Good for old bones like mine.’
Flanagan smiled as he saw Jack bristling with the ‘old’ implication and moved quickly to diffuse any difficulties. ‘Sit down you charmer. What is the good news you have for me, Ismâil?’
The bookseller, to the obvious relief of the waiter, finally took his seat. ‘One moment, my friend! Your impatience will kill you. You know I like to satisfy my appetites first and talk later.’ Ismâil removed his dark-tinted sunglasses before he reached out and took Rio’s hand again. She did not recoil. He gently squeezed her long fingers and looked into her eyes as he spoke, ‘Young men do not know how to take their time. Is that not so mademoiselle? All moments like these should be savoured as if time was a whisper. Smelling, touching, tasting, are all blunted by loudness. Young men want to be surrounded by noise and miss the nuance, the passionate nuance, of whispered sensation.’
‘I think Ismâil, if you were allowed, you would have me screaming,’ Rio said before releasing her hand. She brushed the bookseller with the back of her hand on his cheek before dropping it to the table to fiddle with her napkin. Rio suddenly blushed. She hadn’t meant to say it like that, or even touch him, but that was what had happened. She liked beauty in men and the bookseller was no beauty…apart from his hands, she thought. Yet she had sensed a charge between them, the electricity that always drove her on. It’s his eyes, she realised, hoping that her interest had not been noticed.
But the bookseller had noticed and smiled.‘You have cool fingers, mademoiselle.’
‘What do you suggest from the menu, Ismâil? It’s all in Turkish. I’m very hungry,’ Rio said, as she smiled back at him for an instant before quickly inspecting the menu.
He sighed, as he took the menu from her with an exaggerated sigh, ‘My heart is yours, mademoiselle but,’ he laughed loudly. ‘My stomach is the chef’s.’
At that moment the waiter returned with Jack’s order. They all stared at his choice, a mountain of diced meat contained within a half-melon. The aroma of mint suffused the air.
‘I’ll have that also,’ Flanagan said, thinking that the mince would be easy to swallow.
‘I will as well,’ Rio agreed. ‘Because of the scent of mint,’ she added, smiling at Ismâil again.

A little later when they all had been served Ismâil looked again at his dinner companions and tried to take them in. He noted how the two men, his friend Jaffa and the American called Jack, interacted with the woman: she is laughing and gay and is teasing them, playing one off against the other, and resting her hand on his for longer than necessary when she wishes to get him to take sides. Once or twice Ismâil felt her leg beneath the table touch against his and then pull away slowly. On the second occasion he responded with pressure of his own but with a look she told him some other time. Not here, not now, she implied. He nodded. ‘Do you like intrigue, Rio,’ he asked her aloud.
The rogue thinks he has me, she thought, and arched her eyebrows at the smiling bookseller before she responded, ‘What ever do you mean, Ismâil?’
‘Istanbul of course! Here in this garden restaurant, this moment in time with your friends. Do you like the intrigue of it all?’ he persisted.
Jack Dawson did not like the edge to the question and could not prevent himself from asking, ‘What are you getting at Ismâil?’
‘Intrigue! A secret, love affair of a moment before it’s gone.’ Ismâil’s eyes flickered mischievously.
‘Or a plot to steal the moment!’ Rio laughed.
Touché,’ he responded, enjoying the game.
‘Your English is very good, Ismâil,’ Jack butted in.
‘Thank you! In a former life I was an officer in the army. I spent many years on overseas assignment in both England and the United States.’
‘You never told me that, Ismâil,’ Flanagan said, genuinely surprised.
‘You never were interested in my own story, Jaffa. Always somebody else’s.’
Flanagan sat back, admonished by the truth. He then suddenly remembered the warning Ismâil had given him about Alanna and realised it must have come from Ismâil’s army contacts. He tried to put this concern to one side as they finished their meal. What news did the bookseller have for him, for them, he wondered. He waited for Ismâil to pull away the tucked-in napkin from beneath his generous chin before he leant forward. He contrived to keep his voice steady, ‘Come on Ismâil! What is the good news,’ he asked and sipped his wine with false nonchalance.
The bookseller lit up a cigarette and smiled. ‘I have found the Book of the Messenger, Jaffa! Well two books actually.’
What,’ Flanagan spluttered, almost choking on the wine.
‘Where? How?’ Rio asked.
‘Ah my sweet. I am a sleuth. What is it you Americans call it?’ Ismâil said looking first at Rio and then at Jack Dawson. ‘Lateral thinking, that’s it… lateral thinking. Once the letters of Karabatakzade came to light, I thought that perhaps the archery connection might be an avenue to tracking down the Book’s whereabouts.’
‘Another thing you said nothing to me about that,’ Flanagan muttered with suspicion. He was annoyed with himself that he hadn’t considered it.
‘I am sure there are many things you keep from me too, Jaffa. It is the nature of our arrangement. We have usefulness to each other. No more . . . no less,’ Ismâil dismissed.
Flanagan sat back again, deflated.
For the first time that afternoon Jack grinned widely and could resist taking an opportunity to needle Flanagan further. ‘Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and have it confirmed.’
‘Shut up, Jack,’ Flanagan rasped, stung by Jack’s opportunism.
‘Take it easy you two,’ Rio intervened before turning to the bookseller. ‘Tell us more, Ismâil. I’m really excited.’
God, she’s pulling his strings with that little-girl-lost voice of hers and fluttering eyes, Flanagan thought.
‘For you anything, mademoiselle.’ Ismâil smiled and then continued, ‘In the 1920s, under Attaturk, all of the old lodges were suppressed . . . the Mevlevi and Beçktasi tekkes and the like, mainly because of their influence on the military which he wanted to reform. I found out that an Archer’s tekke, dislocated from the Ok Meydani to Eyup, still existed until that time and I was fortunate to be able to track down the son of the last pir.’
Pir. What is that?’ Jack Dawson asked.
‘The pir was the leader, sometimes referred to as baba, meaning father of the lodges… or tekke, as they were known,’ Flanagan interjected. ‘Most of the lodges were Sufi in orientation and the pir was responsible for the spiritual or mystical side of the lodge’s activity. The Archer’s lodge would have been similar to that of the Mevlevi whirling dancers with the layers of initiation and discipline, associated in their case, to the preparation and practice of the bows and arrows,’ Flanagan further explained, recovering his composure.
‘Exactly, Jaffa!’ the bookseller concurred. ‘Through my contacts I learned that last pir’s son, was still alive and living in Eyup. I arranged to visit on the pretext of asking him if he knew anything further about Karabatakzade, but secretly hoping to find out if he had any knowledge of the Book and its whereabouts. It was a difficult job finding him. The house was very old and almost derelict but serving as the doorframe, remarkably, were two of the old abidesi distance stones from the Ok Meydani. He greeted me at the door and led me into a well-kept house. He introduced himself, I am Zergerdan Hekim –’
‘Do you hear that? His name was Hekim! There’s the bloody connection with Beatty!’ Flanagan shouted.
The bookseller frowned at the interruption.
‘Please continue, Ismâil,’ Jack said.
‘Where was I, oh yes! I am Zergerdan Hekim, son of Melek Hekim and you are welcome. It is a long time since anyone has spoken to me of the Archer’s lodge. This man was in his 80s, had a wasted left arm, and leg, yet he had a great dignity. He looked at me for a long time before speaking. Karabatak, the cormorant, the silent arrow that once released would disappear in flight and then suddenly appear again, like the memory of the man you are looking for, he whispered to me.’
‘Wow!’ Rio exclaimed, beaming further encouragement.
‘I told him of what we knew about Karabatakzade’s life and how he had been betrayed. One moment, he then said, holding up a hand and calling out a woman’s name. This woman appeared from the back of the house and he whispered in her ear. My daughter, he explained before she returned carrying a small chest. He then opened the chest with great reverence and lifted out an old book, its morocco cover decorated in beautiful gold calligraphy and the embossed engraving of an archer kneeling to Allah. He handed it to me. That is the record of all the famous archers of the lodge up to the last of the Sultans. The history was handed down generation after generation and it was the responsibility of the pirs to record those histories. The pages age with their story but the binding and last few pages are my father’s. Search for the name of your archer. ’
Ismâil stopped speaking, and lit up another cigarette.
‘Heck!’ Jack said.
‘Oh please continue, Ismâil,’ Rio pleaded.
‘I found his name of course!’ he said smugly.
‘And?’ Flanagan could not help pressing.
‘Our friend Karabatakzade was all that he seemed to us across the centuries: brave, skilled and loyal. According to the records, he died the death of a messenger.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jack asked first.
‘Karabatakzade requested that he be killed by use of the chaush or messenger arrow. He wanted to hear its whistle in the air as his death approached.’
‘Oh!’ Rio groaned with an involuntary sigh.
‘Dying from an arrow wound could be slow and painful. The Sultan had his head gardener complete the execution swiftly once the arrow struck home. A significant benevolence in a time when death was often prolonged and its finality no doubt a very welcome pleasure.’
‘A gardener?’ Jack queried.
‘Yes. The head gardener of the Sultan was also the chief-executioner,’ Flanagan explained.
‘Do you believe in execution for serious crimes, Rio?’ Ismâil suddenly asked. He looked at Flanagan and saw that Jaffa understood.
‘Damn right,’ Jack interrupted.
‘Only for the executioners, Ismâil,’ Rio said, having noticed the pain suddenly etched on Flanagan’s face.
‘Go on with the story,’ Flanagan demanded.
‘I closed the book and looked up at the old man. He had tears in his eyes as he spoke. My father Melek Hekim gave me a proud name but I could never be the man he was, he said pointing to his wasted arm. Polio. I couldn’t ever hold or draw a bow. I did not tell him that his father most likely tried to sell the records of the tekke before or very soon after it was closed down. He held him in such obvious reverence it touched my soul to see an old man talk as if he still was a child at his father’s knee but . . .’ Ishmail’s voice suddenly faltered and then failed him. He lit yet another cigarette and stared into the sky.
‘But what?’ Jack pressed.
After a few moments of inhaling and exhaling deeply the bookseller took up the story again. ‘I began to make my excuses to leave but Zergerdan held up his hand. Wait, he said. I have something else to show you. He then lifted from the chest another book. It had leather bindings and there were horse hair tassels attached.
‘Jesus!’ Flanagan gasped.
Ismâil smiled and shrugged his shoulders. A scattering of ash and dandruff flew off in Rio’s direction. ‘I didn’t dare breathe or show any emotion. I thought I would explode. Here was the Book, being handed to me.’
‘What did you do?’ Jack questions.
‘Nothing. Just stared at it. I was afraid to touch it in case, like Jaffa, my hands would betray my anxiety.’
‘What do you mean by that, Ismâil?’ Rio asked, looking at Flanagan.
‘He . . . he means I have a nervous fingering when I get excited about a manuscript,’ Flanagan quickly bluffed while throwing a warning flash of his eyes at Ismâil. ‘What happened then, Ismâil?’

How many secrets can you keep Jaffa, Ismâil thought before continuing, ‘Zergerdan said, I am an old man and will soon join the illustrious in the cemetery behind the house. These books were the most precious possessions of the tekke. All of the initiated archers are long dead and as I have no sons, only the daughter you have met, and so the living memory of the lodge dies with me. I’ve always hoped somebody would come for these before I die. To relieve me of the burden.
‘He gave them to you!’ Flanagan stood up to pace around the table.
‘Be sensible, Jaffa. He was old but not stupid. His daughter is unmarried and has looked after him all her life. He wants her to be taken care of. This was a negotiation. He knew the value of what he was offering.’
‘Like his father!’ Jack said.
‘And,’ Flanagan asked.
‘$80,000 or thereabouts. For both books! A very reasonable price.’
‘What is your cut, Ismâil?’ Flanagan questioned, suspicious again, before retaking his seat.
‘The lodge’s history book. No more no less!’
‘I want nothing to do with the Book of the …Messenger Spirit, Jaffa. See! I’m almost afraid to utter its name. Like our friend Zergerdan said, it is a burden. I have no desire to be a slave to that burden . . . or a victim –’ At that moment Ismâil’s cell-phone shrilled.
‘What do you mean by victim,’ Rio probed.
The bookseller held up a hand in apology as he listened to the phone. ‘Excuse me a moment,’ he said, as he got up and walked towards the far end of the garden where he leant against an olive tree.

‘Shit! Where would I get my hands on that type of money?’ Flanagan groaned aloud when the bookseller was out of earshot.
‘Do you want the Book that bad, Jerome?’ Rio challenged.
‘I . . . no, no I don’t. Not for me. I was thinking of Phyllis,’ Flanagan said truthfully.
‘Are you not going to try and bargain him down, Flanagan?’ Jack asked, genuinely intrigued by Flanagan’s reaction.
‘No, Jack. I’m not sure that it is that important any more.’
‘Well I do,’ Jack Dawson suddenly announced.
‘Why,’ Rio asked concerned.
‘Just business, Babs! This is a good deal and the sell-on value extremely high. Sure we could use it as a ploy to flush out Phyllis’ kidnappers but I would have no intention of handing it over. Think of all those Saudi or fundamentalist Arabs, who would be desperate to get their hands on the Book. In my book, excuse the pun, they can have whatever it is they are afraid of, at a price. Let me at it, darlin’. This is my type of game!’ Jack Dawson got up from the table and walked to where Ismâil was standing. He waited for the bookseller to finish his telephone call, and then linked his arm. Soon they are in animated conversation.

‘I suppose it’s ironic in a way,’ Flanagan mused as he watched the two men haggle, as if deep in the souk.
‘What is?’ Rio questioned.
Flanagan thought for a moment, then asked quietly, ‘Why did you really come to Istanbul, Rio? It was hardly to corner me.’
‘You’re wrong about that, Jerome. I did want to corner you because you had lied to me. I wanted to see your eyes when you explained yourself. And I hoped in a way I could beat you to the Book, to get back at you.’
‘You will win so. Looking at Jack he seems about to close the deal. He likes making your wishes come true, Rio. Doesn’t he?’
‘What do you mean?’ she spat back at him defensively.
‘He is very indulgent of you. Almost deferential! I suspect the only reason Jack came to Istanbul was to get me, to get back at me for hurting you. Did you see the way his nostrils flared and his eyes lit up? This is his opportunity to put one over me. Now the real Jack is coming out. He senses a collectable at a bargain price and is going after it. Way to go Jack!’
‘There is nothing wrong with that.’
‘When I was young all my friends who were the go-getters, the property developers, the stock-market wizards and so on, were very attractive. They were in the game, wanted me to share in it, if I played to their rules, and both they, and the game, were exciting, something to be part of. I bought into it, lock stock and barrel. That is the main reason I left the museum. Now we meet up, infrequently it must be said because what drove us together now drives us apart, and we all seem sad. The more we acquired money, status and power the less we understood why we did so. The more we achieved the more frightening became what we perceived we had not achieved. It was automatic, without pleasure, without excitement. We could buy and sell souls at will not knowing what a soul was or could be.’
‘And you’re reformed I suppose,’ Rio taunted.
Flanagan shook his head slowly. ‘No, in reality I’m not. I never allowed myself a choice in the matter. Too late now, to choose again.’
He ignored the question. ‘What about you, Rio? What is your choice?’
‘You mean you and me?’
‘No. I know that’s not possible although I would like to have tried,’ he replied honestly.

Flanagan wanted to say to her: I’m too neutral for you; I offer nothing for you to get passionate about because I have lost my own passion; I’m not a challenge because I’ve given up. He is unable to tell her about his condition. He does not want her pity . . . like with Mac.

‘No. I was thinking of Mac. I should not have told you what I did. You know he loves you?’
‘Yes,’ Rio said quietly.
‘What are you going to do about it? Shit!’ At that moment Flanagan’s hands were gripped by spasms and the wine glass he held fell to the artificial grass matting on the ground. He stooped to retrieve it, but had difficulty stretching out his fingers.
Rio watched Flanagan bend down with great difficulty from the table. She wanted to ask him there and then but decided against it. Instead she retorted, ‘Nothing Jerome! I have enough of my own problems without taking on Mac’s. He’s fucked up, angry about his life, with his existence and thinks by having me all that will magically disappear. I’m little different from that hooker of his. People like me don’t provide solutions . . . distractions perhaps, never solutions. It’s not just a colour thing but is everything about me. I seek refuge in the shadows but spend my live seeking light. Mac will douse whatever light there is. He can’t help it. It’s his way of being.’
Flanagan heard those last words as he raised his head back to table level, the glass finally in hand. ‘But – Jesus….’

Jerome Flanagan looked up and saw Cormac McMurragh standing behind Rio’s shoulder. Mac looked pale and drawn and his lips quivered as if he was about to cry. At the far end of the garden Flanagan also saw that another man had joined Ismâil and Jack.
‘Mac. How long have you been standing there?’ Flanagan asked in a quiet tone.
Rio spun round. ‘Mac. What are you doing here?’ she flustered.
‘Long enough!’ Mac’s voice was harsh. He moved around to take the seat vacated by Ismâil and looked directly at Rio. ‘Jaffa asked me to come. Said he needed a friend. I thought we could all be friends here. I had this notion it would be a magical time, that you and I could . . . I thought we were friends.’
‘You are my friend.’
‘Fuck off, Rio. I was standing behind you. I heard what you said.’ He started to stand up.
‘Lets talk about this, Mac. Please.’ Rio shook with emotion. ‘I never meant to hurt you. I’m so sorry. Please sit down,’ she pleaded.
Flanagan watched not knowing what to say or do. Mac hesitated for a moment and relented. He sat back down but with his back half-turned to Rio. Flanagan decided to leave them together to try and sort out the misunderstanding. He got up and headed for the far end of the garden where Jack and Ismâil are talking to the newcomer. The man is tall, dark-haired and handsome. As Flanagan approached he heard them speaking in Turkish and decided that he must be one of the bookseller’s contacts.
Jack Dawson suddenly brightened. ‘Flanagan, the very man! Let me introduce you to Detective Inspector Gerry Flatley of the Garda Homicide Division. You two have a lot to talk about.’
Flanagan’s mouth opened.
The policeman turned but did not offer his hand. He switched back effortlessly from Turkish to Dublin-accented English. ‘You have lead us a merry dance Dr. Flanagan. But thanks to Mr. Dawson here you are not in as much trouble as you think.’
‘What do you mean?’ He barely got the words out.
‘Your blood group! I asked you about it in the hotel. It excludes you from the investigation,’ Jack explained.
‘Why are you here so, Inspector?’ Ismâil asked in English.
‘Our main suspect, Ahmed al-Akrash was thought to have travelled to Istanbul with a woman journalist. A couple matching their description were detained off the ferry from Izmir. I was sent to question them but on arrival this morning it seems that the man was not al-Akrash and that the couple were released into the custody of the military who wanted to question them on something to do with the Kurds. They were long gone when I arrived.’
Izmir – a woman journalist! It was too much of a coincidence. A dread flowed through Flanagan’s being. ‘What did you say? Was the journalist called Alanna Savur?’ Flanagan asked hoping against hope.
‘I think so. It sounds familiar. Let me check.’
Flanagan watched as Flatley pulled out the small notebook, that all policemen seem to be born with, and flicked through the pages.
‘Yes. Alanna Savur. Why? Do you know her?’
‘You said the army picked her up this morning.’
‘Excuse me, I must go!’ Flanagan said urgently.
‘Where to?’ Jack and Ismâil asked simultaneously.
‘I cannot say but I will contact you later.’
‘I’ve a good deal of questions for you Dr. Flanagan. I’d prefer if you’d stay,’ Flatley said evenly.
‘I’m sorry, Inspector. I must go.’ Flanagan raced towards the steps. He hoped that they wouldn’t try to stop him. He hesitated at the bottom rung. ‘Here Inspector. Hold on to this!’ he shouted, pulling his passport from his pocket and throwing it back over his shoulder. He did not wait to see Flatley bend down to pick it up nor look back at the noise coming from the other end of the garden.

Jack did. He heard Cormac McMurragh and Rio arguing loudly and turned. He started to walk towards them but then he saw a movement and heard Rio cry out. Her hand went up to cover her right ear. He started to run. Mac had stood up and hovered in front of Rio. His hand was raised and was drawn back ready to strike. Jack Dawson instinctively reached for the gun that wasn’t there. He screamed out Rio’s name. He . . .

Flanagan hailed a taxi and told the driver to take him to the ferry terminus at Yenikapi as quickly as possible.

St. Peter cuts off Malchus' ear in the Garden of Gethsemane (Garden of the Oil Press)

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